Tips to make cheese the star of platters, pairings and picnics

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WE’RE all looking forward to the festive holiday season and end-of year celebrations with family and friends. More often than not, we’ll be making the most of the fantastic weather and the setting for our get-togethers will be outdoors. From parties to sit-down dinners, cocktail brunches to family picnics, we’re going to want to focus on fresh and light foods that are easy to prepare and enjoy al fresco.

With the abundance of summer fruits and other seasonal produce, there are countless opportunities for stunning cheese pairings. Putting together a sumptuous cheese board is simple, and takes just a few minutes of preparation.  You also don’t need to worry about load shedding! Cheese is so versatile, pairing perfectly with both sweet and savoury, that there are endless ways to delight your friends and family, young and old. Let’s not forget that cheese also brings a delicious flair to your festive salads, vegetable dishes, potato bakes and gourmet braai broodjies.

Here are some of Rediscover Dairy’s favourite summer pairings for cheese boards:

  • Strawberries and ricotta
  • Blueberries and brie
  • Peaches and gouda
  • Mango and goat’s cheese

But don’t forget the classics:

  • Watermelon and feta
  • Tomato and mozzarella
  • Apple and cheddar
  • Figs and blue cheese

Whether they are blue, hard, semi-hard, semi-soft, soft and fresh or soft-ripened, the cheeses of your choice can be combined with crackers and breads; fresh fruits, herbs and vegetables; dried fruits, seeds and nuts; olives, peppers and pickles; sweet and savoury marmalades, jams and preserves; cold and smoked meats and fish. At celebration picnics, parties or al fresco dinners, the cheese board is a gorgeous centrepiece echoing the freshness and abundance of summer, and is an excellent accompaniment to wine, cider, gin cocktails and non-alcoholic alternatives.

Tips for building a perfect cheese board:

  • Variety works – choose cheeses with different textures and taste profiles.
  • Sweet, sour, bitter and salty – match your cheeses to an array of different sweet and savoury ingredients.
  • Dazzle with colour – choose fruits and vegetables of different colours, shapes, and textures.
  • Fill the space – use garnishes such as fresh herbs, berries, nuts, roasted chickpeas, and edible flowers so that the board is entirely covered with an abundance of good foods.
  • Keep it cool – Remember that cheeses are at their best at room temperature.  So, keep your cheese board indoors until you are ready to serve.  You can also assemble your cheese board on a marble slab to keep cheeses cool for longer outdoors.

“Cheese is a favourite, nutrient-packed food for children, and good for the whole family,” says Maretha Vermaak, registered dietitian at Rediscover Dairy. What’s not to love, considering:

  • Cheese is a whole food that is an excellent source of good-quality protein and bone-building calcium.
  • Cheese contains beneficial nutrients such as Vitamins A, B2 and B12, and zinc.
  • Eating hard cheese, such as cheddar cheese directly after a meal is a good way to protect your teeth and keep them healthy.
  • Cheese is also good for heart health. Research has shown that the saturated fats in cheese do not increase the risk of stroke, hypertension, or cardiovascular disease.
  • Up to 50g of hard cheese such as cheddar can be enjoyed daily as part of a healthy diet that includes a variety of foods.

For more dairy ideas, follow Rediscover Dairy on Facebook.

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